(Sorghum, Grain sorghum)
[= Sorghum caffrorum]
Graansorghum [Afrikaans]; Mabele [Pedi,
Sotho, Ndabele]; Amazimba [Xhosa]; Amabele [Zulu]
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Sorghum is an indigenous African crop (including native to southern Africa) that grows well
in areas that experience droughts. To a large extent it has been replaced by
maize (which originates from South America) but it is still grown quite
extensively in southern Africa both as a subsistence crop, and commercially. It
has a number of uses including beer making and for porridge, but the commercial
crop is used mainly for stock feed.
Sorghum is an indigenous African crop and was domesticated
more than 3000 years ago, possibly in Ethiopia. Sorghum bicolor bicolor is the domesticated
subspecies while the wild form is classified as Sorghum bicolor arundinaceum.
An advantage of sorghum over maize is that it is able to yield grain even
under drought conditions (see also Pearl millet).
Sorghum produces large heads of seed and these are
harvested and stored until needed.
- Whole grain is boiled and eaten
- The grain is ground into flour and used for making
bread and porridge.
- The grain is soaked and allowed to germinate a little
and then dried (a process termed malting - the germination turns starches to
sugars). The malted grain is then ground up and used either for making
beer or for making a porridge that in southern Africa is referred to as
'malted mabele' or 'maltebele'.
- The residue of the plant is used used for
thatching, basketry and fuel or as hay.
- Most of the the commercial harvest of sorghum in
southern Africa is used for stock feed.
- Special cultivars, collectively referred to as
'broomcorn' are grown that have stiff heads and are used as brooms.
Maize was introduced to Africa from Central America in the
1500's and 1600's and has gradually replaced sorghum as the staple food. It is
more nutritious than sorghum and with adequate rainfall is able to produce a
greater harvest. However, sorghum and Pearl
millet are still favoured crops in areas of Africa with unpredictable
rainfall. Sorghum is still grown commercially, mainly for stock feed, but also
for human consumption.
van Wyk, B.-E. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's Plants. A Guide to Useful
Plants of Southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.